I must admit, the title of this week’s post really has nothing whatsoever to do with any of my ten thankfuls. I just liked the peace I felt when I heard the caption on a post by National Geographic I came across the other day.
I am sneaking this in at the last possible moment because sometimes I feel sorry for myself and the idea of writing about why I am thankful feels like a giant task.
I’m thankful for her sharing her peace, which is oh so close to mine. I may not see the photos she features, but her descriptions of the beach she encounters are more than enough.
I am thankful for a writing circle (The Elsewhere Region) where a few more new members showed up.
It lead to a spur in conversation and dynamic in the group. Each new attendee brought with them their own story and reasons for why they decided to come, just like I did when I first showed up in that room.
Things were a little more lively than usual and some new writing styles and reading out loud styles. Some will be back and some won’t. That’s to-be-determined.
I am thankful my brother and his band had a successful first show…Riker, who have been practicing in my basement for months now.
I think it is bold to get up, in front of people, and put on such a kickass show as they did. I have had the pleasure of hearing those songs from inception, through all the repetitions needed to get good. Now I look forward to their EP with eager anticipation.
I am thankful for an eventful weekend of music.
This included some karaoke, not by me, but by two members of Riker. At least they chose songs from two worthy bands.
I am thankful a friend could join us for said musical weekend.
It’s been a while. It’s nice to know a friend, so long had, is one who will always have your back in any situation. I haven’t always been worthy of such friendship. I admire this friend’s attitude of not letting the world dictate so much, like I seem to.
I am thankful for my white cane.
I still fight my love/hate relationship with the white cane. I fought it this past weekend in fact. Even with how far it got me, among other things, all the way to my dream of a writing workshop in Mexico recently, I still battled feelings of embarrassment this last weekend.
I used it. It got me safely out to lunch and back. I crossed roads with it. I need it. When I was young I had enough sight to get by with not using it much, but that was then and this is my reality in 2017.
Then something came along to grab my attention and make me see what I have in that “stick,” as so many call it.
I am thankful I have even a little bit to give to someone with less.
I was looking for something, painfully moving through my week, and then this happened. I knew Lizzi had been on a work trip to Kenya and that it has had a profound affect on her ever since. I found out what she has been thinking about and I knew I needed to help.
I can’t help much, but with so much going on in the world, out of my control and making my heart hurt I needed to do this.
I am thankful for a brand new song by Lana Del Ray.
The girl doesn’t often brighten things up, not her style, but the music sure does have feeling.
It fit my mood at the time anyway.
And I am thankful for the show This Is Us because it helped me have a good cry, tonight, which I really needed.
I had gone through episodic times where I felt pulled down by sadness and despair, mental health issues had touched my family, but never had I experienced anything like this before.
I fell in love with someone with depression.
The first six months of a new relationship are thrilling and exciting. Depression was kept at bay, at least from me, and maybe even him.
However, once real life crept in and time moved along, reality set in.
I had no real clue what to expect or any clear understanding how I would handle being the girlfriend of someone whose good days were good and whose bad days could be pretty bad. If I had been more prepared, I still don’t know how I would have prepared for the worry, the fear, and the stress. I was so far in love by the time I would learn what living every day with depression in my relationship was going to be like, that by then there was no going back and I didn’t want to.
What do you do when you care so much for someone by then? How could I turn back, how did I see our life going forward, and what was I to do when the bad days began?
If I were this weighed down by these questions, just imagine how he felt. I did and I tried, constantly. I often grew obsessed by trying so hard to put myself in his shoes, even for a moment, to feel what he might be feeling.
“I know…I know,” I continuously told myself. There was no way I could. My ability for empathy drove me crazy thinking I could truly understand, even attempt to.
There’s no real way to describe the weight of it.
One moment our love felt like enough to carry us through the dark days and the next thing I knew a wall shot up between us, boxing him away from me, somewhere I could not follow and felt unable to travel with him. I could kick and I could scream but what would be the point if the wall would not come down, only dismantled, brick by brick, by hands that were not my own.
It’s times like these that I felt his struggles and him struggle most acutely.
Helplessness would threaten to overtake me and I could feel the undertow threatening to pull him down and away from us, from himself.
I didn’t want to feel the anger, directed at nobody in particular but at myself more than anyone else.
Love, I hoped, could be the answer. I could have told myself before falling, how naive of me and just how unrealistic of a hope this was, that depression and mental illness could not be battled and defeated strictly with the love of a good woman, not even me.
While I lived day to day with these realities, on the other hand, my guilt grew with every sad day he had. Why wasn’t I enough to stem the flow of his pain? What more could I do.
How selfish of me, to think this way. This wasn’t about me, but soon love and pain became so tightly entwined that I didn’t know, some days, how to separate the two elements.
If I wasn’t careful, my guard was let down, and we would wake to one of those blue bad days.
Winter and January, following the busy days of the Christmas season and with the start of a new year, these ran into some particularly dark days, when the cold and the snow made for one long season. I could fight the stir-crazy and the cabin-fever, but easier said than done for him. Soon my fear of this time of year was very much a rational one.
Then the days would lengthen and the sun would shine. Would these environmental factors be enough?
Medication, enough sleep, enough sunshine, fresh air and exercise.
I knew the ins and outs of what could contribute, in both good and bad ways, to the harshness of depression.
Love and stress were much greyer of areas. I couldn’t be that perfect girlfriend I so wanted to be for him, one that would be the difference between being his salvation and a part of the problem.
Silly were these thoughts I started to have. I could not make anyone happy that was not happy with themselves. If there were an imbalance in our relationship or in his brain chemistry, how much control did I have over these things?
If I could only make him laugh more. If I could only make him his favourite meal or offer him the right amount of peace and serenity at the end of a long day that he told me, in the early days of dating, I had been enough to provide.
“All I could do was love him,” I would tell myself.
I would hear the soon all-to-familiar words coming out of his mouth, that he just felt blue that day, just not himself, and my stomach would drop and my heart would sink.
How was it possible to feel both my stomach and my heart all the way down in my feet?
Here we go again, but no and wait…he didn’t choose to feel like that. I just had to wait it out and it would pass.
It would pass, right?
I am using this date, January 28th, Bell Let’s Talk Day to write about these extremely difficult memories of the harder parts of love, in among the tricky minefields of depression.
I believe, though I could not make his pain and his suffering go away, that I learned how to become an even more loving, sensitive, and compassionate person for my own sake. I will take this into any future relationships, whether depression is an issue or not, and I will know what it is like to love someone, no matter what they may be living with, all the more deeply and entirely without self-absorption.
I had to get over the fact that although I hoped my own experiences living my own life with some of the extra hardships I have might have been the thing to hold us together. I had to face the fact that all the love in the world that I hoped I could give might not be the thing to ensure a for-certain future. I knew the cure for depression wasn’t in my own hands.
I can honestly say that watching someone you love go through such ups and downs of depression, when you witness the sometimes daily roller coaster, is one of the hardest experiences life can throw your way.
I wanted to write about it though, as hard as it is to talk about for me, because I feel that it’s important to speak about. I never wanted to admit I felt such guilt and anger with myself, so hard for me to admit, but these feelings are a part of a very important period of my past.
As important as it is for us to talk about mental illness, to “stop the stigma”, I know I would have benefited from hearing experiences like mine before I felt what it felt like when love and depression mix.
I was so excited, waiting nearly a year for this particular variation of my favourite Disney story to come out, and all ready to review the film here. So what happened?
(Warning: possible spoilers ahead. Don’t get mad at me if you have not yet watched and you learn things you don’t want to. You have been fairly warned. In that case, move along and stop reading, but make a note to return after you’ve viewed the movie.)
It has been several months since that time and I am just getting around to writing this, but not because I hated it so much I backed out. I will explain below, now, finally with the release of Maleficent on DVD (or in whatever the hell form movies are coming out these days) I will try not to spoil the story too much. This is part movie review and part movie comparison.
Sleeping Beauty was my favourite fairy tale Disney cartoon as a child. I loved the fairies, Princess Aurora, and even the wicked Maleficent herself because she was just that frightening and evil, but what made her that way? That’s not really the sort of thing you look too deeply into as a child.
I didn’t know what to expect from this live-action movie. It’s been years since Sleeping Beauty and finally we were getting to hear the story from Maleficent’s point-of-view.
Angelina Jolie is the star of this movie, as it should be and as the title suggests, but she totally steals the spotlight.
In the movie trailer she seems just as evil as I’ve always known her to be. She made me tremble with just a few words, but there is a lot more to this version of the Disney villain.
The narrator helps to set the scene:
Let us tell an old story anew and we will see how well you know it.
Two kingdoms live side by side, a human kingdom and a fairy one, but not harmoniously.
The Moors is the home of all number of mythical, magical creatures, but a young fairy, Maleficent flies over it all, with her giant, powerfully strong wings.
She lives in a tree and hears of a human boy trying to steal from the Pool of Jewels.
She pities him and seeing something in him, lets him explain himself and the border guards back off. She has never seen a human up close. An unlikely friendship begins between the two.
She takes back the jewel the human boy was attempting to steal, tossing it back into the pool: “I didn’t throw it away. I delivered it home, as I’m going to do for you.”
She spares his life and saves him. They are both orphans and find something in each other. He risks danger to return to the Moors, just to see her again. He tosses away a ring made from iron he wears when he hears that iron burns fairies, just so their hands can touch.
He compliments her: “I like your wings,” as any boy might compliment a girl he likes. He came to the Moors, was about to steal a jewel, but ends up stealing her heart, something much more precious.
All the signs point to a love story between these two different races. Perhaps the old war between the two kingdoms is forgotten, but like most stories, the reality of life, the greed and ambition of man gets in the way.
Stefan’s desire, as he grows, grows too. I never would have considered, watching the Disney version as a child, any backstory between Maleficent and King Stefan, but it works well I think.
These two teenagers have had their own perfect version of true love’s first kiss, but the temptation and ambition have grown in Stefan. Maleficent has lost her own chance for any possibility of that iconic first kiss leading to a happy ending and they both lose out on everything they could have had together.
Maleficent is the protector of the Moors and must do so when the king and his army attack, envious and fearful. She is just a winged elf to him and he is no king to her.
He demands her head, but is wounded in battle. This is the perfect opportunity for the increasingly greedy young Stefan to show his loyalty to the kingdom of men. This is where things turned uncomfortable for me.
He uses the history between them to fool Maleficent. He can’t bring himself to kill her, but he does knock her out, using the dreaded iron against her, cutting off her precious wings.
Angelina spoke in interviews of the connection between this act in the movie and the invasion of sexual assault and rape. Of course this doesn’t have to be how this scene is read, but for me this is where the film took on a darker adult meaning, so different from the simple, innocent evil of the classic Disney film.
Angelina moved me, showing her truly perfect casting for this role, when she awakes as Maleficent to find that she has been robbed of her wings.
I could hardly even stand to listen to the scene. Her sounds of pure agony and despair on learning of her loss were difficult to get through. Although I could not see, I found it a hard scene to watch.
Stefan has his proof to present to the dying king and takes position as the newly reining King Stefan. He marries the dead king’s daughter and they have a child: Princess Aurora.
Back in the Moors Maleficent has no way of flying over her land to see what’s going on. One day she comes across the character of Diabal and saves his life. He pledges his loyalty to her from then on.
The pet raven Maleficent has as her loyal companion in Sleeping Beauty becomes a real man at times. Then, as a raven, is able to fly and find out what has become of Stefan.
Upon learning of the birth of the princess Maleficent feels betrayed all the more by Stefan and the well-known evil, hatred, and vengeance grows in her. She uses her magic to put up a wall of thorns around the Moors, just like the wall she puts around her heart. This is more reminiscent of the darkness of Maleficent’s castle in the 1959 film.
It is her rendition of the famous Christening scene that caught my attention with its power and the big way in which she plays it.
Angelina plays this with the right amount of resemblance to the original movie, but with her own spin on just the right touch of evil glee to be heard in her voice as she curses Aurora.
When she pledges to curse the princess to death on her sixteenth birthday by the prick from a spindle of a spinning wheel, it is clear Maleficent wants to hurt King Stefan as much as he has hurt her.
When he begs her to spare his daughter, she says:
“I like you begging. Do it again.”
At first she feeds on his desperation and it makes her feel a little better, but then there is a sudden turn and she seems to soften a little then and reduces the outcome of the curse to only a deep sleep until true love’s first kiss.
It is a scene full of tension and anxiety. Maleficent wants to make Stefan suffer for what he did to her, like a victim of sexual assault who might want the same thing from their perpetrator, no longer believing that true love exists.
“This curse will last until the end of time. No power on earth can change it.”
The fairies aren’t like I know them and love them in Sleeping Beauty. Their names have been changed. They were always a bit useless once they were made to live without their magical powers for the sixteen years it takes to raise Aurora, but although still genuinely good and kind, they have been reduced to something farcical.
They are known, not as fairies, but as pixies. The blue one always reminded me of my grandmother, but in this telling of the story, the pink, green, and blue pixies (one played by the evil Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter), they come across as bumbling, foolish, ridiculous creatures. They have a fluttery wispy sound that grated on my nerves every time I heard it.
The scene where the baby is left crying and they discuss that she must be hungry, yet none of them do anything about it. This is where Maleficent comes in.
In the original film they would never have been so thoughtless. It appears as if they don’t really care for the child very much, not one of the three feeding the poor baby. Maleficent and her companion step in, Maleficent starting with resentment, referring to Aurora as “Beastie”, but she saves her life, more than once.
From then on she is a shadow who is always following and looking over Aurora as she grows. She tries to remain cool and detached, but slowly grows to care for the girl. This is a definite departure from the Disney classic, but it adds a level of depth to the story that nobody would have predicted.
As Maleficent’s heart thaws, it is King Stefan whose heart hardens as the years pass by and he is determined to find Maleficent. He slowly loses touch with reality.
All throughout the omniscient narrator speaks lines about the life Aurora lives, such as:
“Far away from the lofty palace that she remembered not.”
During one particular conversation between Maleficent and Aurora:
“There is an evil in this world, revenge, and hatred.”
Aurora asks Maleficent why she does not possess wings like the other fairies and Maleficent hesitantly explains that she had wings once, but they were taken from her.
She speaks of her long lost wings with wistful sadness. That they were stolen, but that they had been big and strong, never faltering, she could trust them.
These wings were a part of her and it was a terrible violation, what the now king had done by stealing them, removing them like he did.
As for true love, both the king and the “evil” fairy no longer believe.
True love does not exist.
I suppose I found the emphasis on this topic in this version to be the most interesting part.
Perhaps it is the guilt of this act that has eaten away at the king ever since. Perhaps he has blamed himself for the whole mess, for what has happened to his daughter and to the wild fairy he once loved.
As for his daughter, she is a princess, but she does not know it, until the day before her sixteenth birthday. She has confronted the shadow and is not scared of what she discovers. She has developed a strong bond with Maleficent, happy until the pixies inform her who she really is and that she must return to her father, the king.
The scene where Aurora meets a stranger in the woods isn’t at all like the key scene in Sleeping Beauty, but it still leads you to believe he will be the true love who will break the inevitable curse.
There is no magical moment when Aurora and Prince Philip dance in a woodland glen, with all the friendly woodland animals watching. It feels like this handsome prince is merely a background character in this updated adaptation. Any feelings of love are slow to grow, unlike the sudden realization of feelings that is a naive idea of love from a child’s point of view in a Disney movie.
Aurora is disillusioned with Maleficent and the pixies and runs to meet her father in the palace, which feels a little unrealistic, but it has gotten her back to where the danger really lies.
Even King Stefan’s insane order to lock her in her room does not prevent the curse from taking effect. She pricks her finger and Maleficent is determined to break the curse, but can it be done?
Does Maleficent really believe she will be able to lift the curse by bringing the prince to the bedside of her darling so-called daughter?
She tries to take back her curse, no longer only two options, good and bad, that are so simplistic, through a child’s eyes; black and white turns to grey.
She has found the stranger from the woods and brings him to the castle and to the sleeping Aurora. The scene builds to a climactic moment, after the more modern hesitation from the young prince, questioning whether he should kiss a girl he has just met.
Everything has been leading up to this. HE finds himself by the sleeping princess’s bedside. They wait with bated breath and you think this is the moment of the movie, the whole point.
Kissing someone without their consent, having not met more than once as he points out, suddenly also becomes something else, becomes more, like an invasion of personal space.
I won’t spoil the next part, in case I have, invariably, convinced you to watch this movie, because in spite of the issues I have with it, in case you couldn’t tell, I think you should.
Maleficent does feel the sorrow of what she has done to her precious Aurora. She admits that she can not be forgiven for it, because what she has done to the poor child is unforgivable, all that time she was so lost with seeking revenge and in hatred. This, perhaps, is the repentance you wouldn’t expect from an evil power like Maleficent, the kind of repentance the king can not realize.
By her bedside she declares:
“I swear no harm will come to you as long as I live and not a day shall pass that I don’t miss your smile.”
The epic climactic battle does not happen in the way you might remember it. It’s the heart of King Stephan, once touched by his feelings for the young Maleficent, that has turned cold and hard. He is beyond all help or hope. He has grown mad in those feelings of hatred and revenge, the same ones Maleficent fought so hard against, they have won out in him..
There is one final, dramatic point, a battle between Maleficent and King Stefan, involving a dragon, and true love does win out, but at a cost. The characters you might expect to end up happily aren’t necessarily the ones who do, but this story is a fairy tale, still grounded in reality and with a more modern touch.
The narrator, which I like very much because she has helped me to understand the story, sums it all up in a beautiful and satisfying manner. All along this invisible voice of the story is someone you may not have guessed.
Angelina Jolie is the star of this whole retelling and her role of Maleficent is one of the best of her career, in this lowly reviewer’s opinion.
This is no longer the sweet little fairy tale of my youth. The lessons are plentiful, on greed and envy, jealousy and revenge, true love and cruelty. The two worlds are so different and it is a constant struggle, a battle at times, to see if the two worlds can get along and live happily side by side.
Like most stories, the humans are the greedy ones, fearing magic and seeking to take its power.
Good and evil, black and white are no longer at the heart of it. This is a nice follow-up piece to the original Disney version of Sleeping Beauty, made fifty-five years earlier.
The three good fairies I loved so much, the pixies of this film, are the things I like least in this version. The one whose supposedly evil and her bird/wolf/man are my favourite characters.
My feelings were constantly on a roller coaster, from start to finish of this film. I hurt and I smiled. I would give Angelina’s performance a 5 out of 5, while the rest of the movie I would give a solid 4 for its fairy tale style, mixed with its modern-day themes.
In the end, it’s the true love in the unlikely relationship between Maleficent and Aurora that is the nice surprise of this film, true love between the two you never, on watching the original, would have guessed. This alteration in this updated version was a bewildering one and yet, a sweet change in direction of plot and story.
The true love of a man does not always have to be the answer, but it still ends up rounding out the story rather sweetly.
For you true love fans, you romantic fairy tale lovers who cling to childhood ideals like myself, it is nice to see.
So apparently we did not know this particular favourite of mine quite as well as we, or at least, as well as I thought I did. This was an unexpected surprise, and a mostly pleasant one at that.
It ends happily ever after, as a fairy tale is supposed to. The Moors become a bright beautiful place once more.
The kingdoms unify and Princess Aurora is crowned Queen, having been the narrator all along.
The two kingdoms are at peace with one another, in the end:
“Brought together not by hero or villain as legend predicted. But by both.”
That is what makes Maleficent and indeed the actress who plays her so spellbinding and what made all the other little annoyances I felt throughout worth watching.
Of course I can’t write this review without highlighting the musical tone provided for this film, by the haunting voice of Lana Del Ray:
Two songs in particular come to mind with Sherry in the title and written about a girl just like my friend: “Sherry Baby” by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and “Oh Sherry” by Steve Perry. There are very few people I’ve known who stick out in my mind like this particular bride. There are a few girls I have known who have seemed free to me, free spirits who were always attracting people to them with their bright sparkling personalities. This bride always seemed like this, almost like a female super hero who could take on the world and did.
This was unlike any other wedding I had ever attended, a good thing for sure. The real thing was done at City Hall, but a small gathering of family and friends were invited to help celebrate the happy couple, a real life love story to my wild imagination and literary mind. I was lucky to be one of these select few.
I grew up just outside of a small subdivision and, as a child, I was constantly looking in on this place, just up the road. I went to school with the kids here and became friends with many of them. I suppose it wasn’t much different for them than it was for my sister and brother. They pretty much grew up with me, having a blind girl in their class from the very beginning, unlike the kids I would meet at the school we would go on to attend later on. These kids knew me and accepted me, almost from the beginning.
I was never lacking in a friend or two for very long, a bit of a rarity for visually impaired kids in their neighbourhood schools. Many had trouble adjusting and socializing, not meeting and making friends easily. I would meet many of these kids and we would go on to become good friends.
This subdivision had a general store, a baseball diamond, a church, and a grammar school – a perfect start to introduce me to school and socializing. Sherry was one of these good friends. We started going to school together in kindergarten, but it was first grade when we started spending any real time together.
I found myself, the other night, sitting at a table and reminiscing with several of these children, all grown up now. There were inside jokes and old stories, lots of laughs and I felt a nostalgia I couldn’t quite put my finger on – a past long gone now and a simpler time. I was lucky enough to sit in on this remembering and, all those years ago now, on the lives of these people. I would go over to one of their houses and inevitably their neighbours would be other kids we went to school with. We would all play together.
The bride grew up with boys all around her. She had no sisters and her next door neighbours were a family of only boys. She always played with the boys and became one of the boys. I and some of the other girls at school were happy to fill that void; I was lucky. I witnessed and was just happy to tag along, to look in on the many adventures rehashed at that table the other night.
We’re all grown up now of course, but some things never really change. Sometimes the more things change the more they remain the same. Sure, there has been years of education, marriages have taken place, and babies are now the order of the day, but these people are all the same friends and classmates I once knew, including Sherry. We are adults and that’s hard to believe when I looked back on all the time spent with these people when we were just children.
I was honoured to receive a personal invite to this particular wedding celebration. I recently reconnected with Sherry over our love of writing. I looked to her, respecting her views and opinions, to read over the novel I started last fall. She provided essential feedback and a boost of inspiration and motivation. I find inspiration through witnessing her unique brand of creativity. Our little gathering, a dinner after Christmas, allowed us to get to know each other again, just a little. So many years passed and she had found her partner in crime. They make beautiful music together and are taking on the world together.
Listening to her speech I heard her say so much, but it was in her personal choice of every song her guests listened or danced to that I learned the most and felt the most about who Sherry was now and what this all meant to her. This was the soundtrack of her life and future with her husband. All the years we lost touch I could feel being filled in by listening to the songs she chose. Every song had personal and private meaning to her and I could relate with this more than anything because I would want to do the exact same thing. Music, memories, and love are so intertwined to someone as creative and artistic as Sherry and to me as well.
She’d hand-picked every guest in attendance and every song to be played over the evening. Rumour has it she spent ten hours making up the song list and proud of it (her new husband thinking her a little crazy and loving her for it I’m sure), choosing carefully each and every song for its meaning and dedicating specific songs for specific people. Even I got a song. I was touched to hear of the Lana Del Ray she dedicated to me. The music was different from that played at the usual wedding reception with its hired DJ (no Macarena to be heard). The music ranged from 50s and 60s rock and roll to 90s rap: The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Elvis, Frankie Valli, David Bowie, Neil Young, and Paul Simon. Then there was some Lauren Hill, and a little Gangster’s Paradise by Coolio thrown in there for good measure and Onto the most famous artists of today such as Lorde. Everywhere around me there was plenty of laughter, talk and dancing and I felt at home.
This was a wedding celebration of uniqueness, just like the bride herself. It was full of personality, just like the bride. It felt intimate and fun, fun like she always was. In inviting me to her celebration she did more than she could possibly realize. Listening and witnessing the love she has found and seeing all those people who love and care about her there to celebrate this love I felt better than I had in months. She gave me hope and showed me that love does exist and that when it’s right you know it.